Christmas tree shoppers practical and traditional

December 12, 2004|By TARA REILLY


The Heller family's method of finding a fresh-cut Christmas tree is rather simple: Picture how high the ceiling is and look for one that fits.

"The ceiling is 8 feet tall, so that's how high the tree should be," said Fred Heller, who stood on his tippy-toes at the Good Spirits Tree Farm near Funkstown Saturday with his arm extended straight up in the air, demonstrating how much room the family had for a tree.

Sharon Heller, his wife, said buying a Christmas tree from Good Spirits, at 9711 Old National Pike, has been a family tradition for about 15 years.


"The whole thing of Christmas is coming to get your own Christmas tree," Sharon Heller said. "It's a great place."

The Hellers' 9-year-old grandson, Lonnie Babington of Hedgesville, W.Va., has helped in the hunt for a tree for the last several years.

"He's been doing this since he was 5," Sharon Heller said.

Lonnie pitched in with cutting down the Norway spruce the family had settled on and helped carry the tree out to the truck.

Other families searched rows and rows of trees before cutting down and dragging their finds to the front of the farm, where the trees are paid for and baled for the ride home.

Sharon Heller said she returns to Good Spirits year after year because it's a nice place and the trees last for several weeks.

"We always come the second week of December," she said. "We take it down the day after New Year's, and the needles are still pretty."

Good Spirits, which was started by owner Mike Gagarine's parents in 1969, sells white pine, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, concolor fir, blue spruce and Norway spruce Christmas trees.

The prices range from $30 to $60 for trees 6- to 10-feet tall, based on the type of tree. Trees taller than 10 feet cost extra.

Gagarine said the fast-growing trees, such as white pines, cost less. The trees that take longer to grow, such as the concolor fir and blue spruce, cost more.

The tree farm contains about 40,000 trees, or about 1,000 trees per acre. About 1,500 trees are sold every season, Gagarine said.

The key to making sure a fresh-cut Christmas tree lasts a while, Gagarine said, is to give it plenty of water. The tree will absorb the water and stay fresh.

Gagarine recommended that customers cut about a half-inch slice from the trunk when they get the tree home to keep sap from sealing off the tree's water intake.

Trees that are cut and then sit a while without water are more likely to die faster than those that are given adequate water soon after they're cut.

"The trunk seals up with sap almost immediately," Gagarine said. "Then, that's it. The tree is not going to drink water no matter how much water you stick it in."

Gagarine said Good Spirits has had good luck so far this Christmas tree season because the weather has cooperated during the busiest days for tree shopping - the weekend after Thanksgiving and the first two weekends in December.

"When it rains, it shuts down," Gagarine said.

Gagarine said he thinks customers return to the farm because of its vast tree selection and because hunting for trees is a family event.

"You can make an afternoon of it," Gagarine said. "It's become part of their Christmas tradition to come out here every year, browse around and buy a tree from us."

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